At the moment, the term “cyclist” is derogatory — it defines a person entirely off of their wheels’ inconvenient position on the road. Cyclists are universally hated by drivers; if you’re like me, you often fantasize of running over bikers when they pass by, and experience frustration when you realize those few moments of joy would lead to a life-sentence in prison.
For most people, this stigma is a valid reason to avoid using bicycles. But, there is one group which should be accustomed to shame, disgust, and onslaughts of dehumanizing insults while simply trying to get around: college students. Of course, college students deserve their treatment; they are a wretched, parasitic stain on any city they inhabit. But, that status comes with some unexpected advantages.
College is a time for experimentation with many things — sex, drugs, and if one can find time for it, Marxism. This experimentation is only made possible by the collective societal acknowledgment that, as a college student, you are useless and completely unworthy of any semblance of dignity. Who are we to suggest that collegiate experimentation shouldn’t extend to one of the most dangerous acts of all, riding a bike in an American city.
Urban design in America is soul-crushing. It is now utopian to hope that the bridge construction in your hometown will be completed within the next five years. If you believe, as many have advocated, proper bike infrastructure will be built, you are sorely mistaken. I don’t even think our state governments have the competency to build park benches anymore. But, as members of the American undergraduate academic intelligentsia, why should we let this stop us? We need to break free. This hope for bicycle infrastructure is a mental prison that we, as academically genius students of the mind, must unshackle ourselves from.
I attend college in New Orleans. The city remains a place of high walking and biking rates despite having dogshit infrastructure for both activities. These rates are likely not in spite of the terrible infrastructure in the city, but because of it. New Orleans has the tenth highest rate of individuals who bike to work in the country while maintaining one of the single worst ratings for cycling safety. When the amount of potholes one expects to encounter on a drive to work reaches a certain threshold, biking will eventually become a more appealing option, regardless if there are bike lanes or sidewalks or places to park them.
American college students should look to this sort of reckless and blase attitude toward biking as an ideal to strive for. The space one lives in and moves around shapes one’s way of life, but college students have great autonomy in challenging the restricting factors of their environment. If you’re reading this, there is a well above non-zero chance that you have walked over a mile, likely crossing at least one highway, to enter illegally into the worst bar on the planet to listen to the worst music on the planet and, if you’re lucky, proceed to have the worst sex on the planet. You, my friend and comrade, are no stranger to low-reward risks. Why should this not carry over to the way we as college students get around in the daytime? Sure the biking infrastructure in most US cities isn’t the best, but we can certainly make due. If there’s going to be a change in the way Americans get around, and there needs to be, college students are the best instigators of the sort of bottom-up demand that the country needs.
Become a liability, become ungovernable, ride your bike in the middle of the interstate.